Coffee and Revisions: What the What?

by | Jun 4, 2021 | Weekly Prompt

For the OG Write Away Weekly crew, the ones who subscribed in time for the New Year prompt (remember? Burning the old year?), it’s now month six of encountering a new writing prompt every Saturday. 

That’s 22 prompts. I harbor no illusions that anyone has done every single prompt, but I hope that, for some of you, getting the weekly email continues to nudge you, to enliven your creativity on Saturday mornings. Maybe this would be a good time to recommit to the ritual. 

Whenever you joined us, and whether you take cream and sugar along with your prompts, or whether you’re a green tea kind of writer, I’d like to send you a Studio Friend mug to honor the work we’ve done together. Just reply to this email and tell me a) your address and b) your favorite prompt so far, and I’ll send one along.

This month, instead of prompting new writing, I’d like to prompt you to revise. My aim, in June, is to give you concrete, doable exercises in revision–ways to re-envision your own writing, re-enliven your lines and sentences. 

Before we get into the how of revision, let’s think about the what. What will you revise? To figure it out, revisit the writing you’ve done so far this year and listen for something that hums. Really listen for those currents and vibrations, those moments that deserve to be shored up, clarified, deepened.

The what of revision could go a few different ways:

  1. You might find a piece that, upon rereading, you realize is almost there, like finding a check you forgot to cash. It just needs a little dusting off and it’ll be ready to submit somewhere.
  2. Or maybe there’s something that feels more like gum on the bottom of your shoe. It’s sticky, it won’t come off on its own. This metaphor isn’t totally working. Sorry. What I mean is, maybe it’s a mess of a draft but there’s something real in it that’s worth confronting. 
  3. The scariest one of all: something small that needs to be something much bigger. A little thing you wrote off the cuff that you realize is the kernel of your next big writing project. 

Whatever it is, listen. Recognize that the draft deserves your care and attention, however dreadful the prospect of revision. Then, to start, try these steps:

  1. Print it out if you write on a computer. Type it up if you write longhand, then print it out. 
  2. Read it aloud, crossing out and scribbling in as you go.
  3. Retype it. Don’t retype anything that doesn’t need to be there. If, as you retype, you realize you’re being pulled another way, toward a different tone or theme or even genre, allow yourself to be pulled there. 

That’s it for now. With that, you’ve written a whole new draft.

And if you tell me your favorite prompt in that email, I’ll be able offer something even more targeted in the coming weeks.